Don’t call it a laptop project….Gary Stager

Last year at FETC, I came to one session early to hear the tail end of a session by Gary Stager. I remember thinking he was quite different from the other presenters. I’m not sure what his presentation was about but he certainly had a unique delivery. Quite irreverant and refreshing. Add to that his New Jersey accent, and you’ve got someone worth listening to. I remember one line he used. Paraphrased somewhat,

“there’s always one blowhard in the crowd that says, “it’s not about the technology”, then I say why are we at at technology conference instead of a Montessori conference”.

Something like that. So this year I was happy to hear what he had to say about one to one computing. He’s been doing it for 16 years. He’s passionate about using it as an “imagination machine”. Here’s a few of my rather scraggly notes.

It’s not a project. This is not an experiment. The laptop computer is the primary learning instrument of the day. Failed ventures often focus on increased usage and continuing with the same old curriculum. Must offer emotion and excitement for buy-in.

We should be as concerned about future students as our current ones.

What’s the world like for students coming into our schools?

“Technology is anything that wasn’t there when you were born”

Most students touch a computer less than an hour each week.

Laptops matter because they are personal and portable.

3 types of Laptop Schools

  • Pioneers…want to make a difference
  • Marketers…want their picture in the paper
  • Their neighbours

The point is that kids should take them home. Give kids laptops so that the teachers have the chance to figure it out before they bring them anyway in the next 5 years.

-if the predominant use of the internet is to “look stuff up” kids will look up inappropriate stuff

-the laptop should be about sharing stuff

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The real power of the internet

Democratizing of publishing

Unprecedented opportunities of collaboration.

Technology matters. It allows you do to things that are otherwise impossible.Stager had some other great points. He showed some videos of some great collaborative, innovative projects and talked about assessment. He hates testing. Actually I think he said he despises testing. When parents see the powerful learning taking place in these classrooms, it never crosses their minds to ask about test scores. The learning is palatable. He described a failed laptop program in Georgia where one educational leader stated proudly, “that although we’ve invested in these laptops, we will not change the curriculum.” Laptops are distruptive and should change the way learning happens. One video showed a girl from Australia who had the opportunity to compose her own music and is now an award winning artist. Stager was careful to point out it’s not necessarily about acheiving this type of success but to enable students to pursue their passions in ways they otherwise could not. It’s Not a project or experiment, it’s the primary instrument of the day. On a personal note, having a laptop has been critical in my development as a learner. Not being tethered to a desk allows me to write this blog post while listening to another session, which I’ll blog about later.